Coping Strategies for Daily Life in a Fixer Upper

A handyman special house can be risky business or a solution to finding a house you can afford. But be advised it's not for everyone. Living in a fixer-upper can be daunting, and downright unpleasant. Here's our best advice.

By Gene And Katie Hamilton

Coping Strategies for Daily Life in a Fixer Upper

If you like to camp, you’ll love living in a fixer-upper because sometimes you are reduced to that level of preparing food or using a tiny bathroom or dealing with other conditions that are temporarily out of your control. This isn’t always the case, but it’s better to expect the worst case scenario than to imagine that rehabbing your kitchen won’t really change your life. It will. Planning and preparation, of course, can make the situation bearable, but when you tear apart the center of your household, it’s going to affect everyone until it’s all put back together.

Don’t be surprised when the ongoing activity of contractors and inspectors moving through your home makes some family members cranky. It can be very stressful. Decide on an area of the house or some rooms that will be off-limits to people who are not members of the family. Many people undergoing a rehab project need an oasis that’s removed from the day-to-day commotion.

We should emphasize that everyone in a household is affected when your house is a work zone, including your pets. Don’t be surprised if your favorite feline doesn’t like the idea of change. And Fido just might not adjust well to the noise and confusion of a major rehab, let alone welcome workers inside. The only bright spot for our pets was their enjoyment of smelling, licking and discovering new openings for windows and doors and following new heat ducts through attic floor joists.

We always had trouble finding Pete and Repete, our cats, when the second floor of one of our houses was under construction. They’d find clever ways to squirrel into floor cavities and hide behind wall partitions that kept us searching for them. Once, the way we could lure Pete out of a floor joists was with the Thanksgiving turkey. The smell was what got him. The point is that you’re upsetting all the members of your household (not just the humans) when you change the structure of your house and your daily routines and lifestyle.

Getting Used to an Open-Door Policy

Be prepared for an ongoing series of workers and inspectors, and keep a log of the days and times of their visits. Also make note of what was discussed, determined or agreed upon, along with any actions needed on your part.

Keep a folder, basket, or other container for receipts for deliveries that come into the house. You can file them away in the proper place at a later date, but this eliminates the need to search for them at this point in the renovation.

Designate one area - a garage is ideal - for storing all the materials that come into the house for a project. Open all materials when they arrive; check that the size, style, and number are correct; and not their condition.

Excerpt from Fix It and Flip It by Gene and Katie Hamilton, McGraw-Hill

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Living in a Fixer Upper - 5 Takeaways

Living in a Fixer Upper: What's It Like?

Prioritizing Improvements With a Plan

Seeing the Positive Side of Renovation